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QB Cassel is looking out for No. 2

He wants the spot as Brady's backup

Backup QB Matt Cassel’s helmet is going the other way, but the No. 2 guy knows where he wants to be on the depth chart.
Backup QB Matt Cassel’s helmet is going the other way, but the No. 2 guy knows where he wants to be on the depth chart. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

FOXBOROUGH -- Ultracompetitive Tom Brady says he takes the field at practice every day looking to be the best quarterback on the field.

That wouldn't appear to be a difficult task, considering he has won three Super Bowls as a starter, while the other three signal-callers at Patriots minicamp -- Matt Cassel, Corey Bramlet, and Todd Mortensen -- have zero NFL starts and victories combined.

Brady and backup Cassel are in constant competition, from sprints to leaps (Brady can dunk, Cassel can't), and Cassel says it has helped him become a better quarterback.

Cassel, the second-year player of out Southern Cal, is hoping to be the Patriots' No. 2 quarterback this year. If (and more likely, when) the Patriots sign a veteran reserve, Cassel won't give up the No. 2 position easily.

``You can't worry about who's out there, who might be coming in," Cassel said yesterday between workouts. ``You can't because it'll take away from your game. All I can do is concentrate on what I can do, and how I can get better."

Cassel spent his entire career at USC as a backup, first to Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, then to Heisman winner Matt Leinart. He knows what being a slot below starter on the depth chart means.

``You have to be ready to play at any moment," he said. ``As the No. 2, you don't get many reps, but you have to be mentally prepared every week.

There's a possibility that you could be in there playing and you'll have to lead your team to victory. We're going out there to win and we're not going out there, if the No. 2's in there, to lose."

Where there's a will . . .
Last year, Monty Beisel was one of the inside linebackers in the team's 3-4 defense, primarily at what coaches call the ``mike" position. This year, he's projected for more duty at the ``will" position.

While it appears to be a subtle change, it's anything but for the second-year Patriot.

``Completely different calls, completely different reads, completely different pass drops," he said. ``The responsibilities are almost night and day."

The change is one that excites Beisel, because it should lead to opportunities to utilize one of his greatest assets -- speed.

``Typically, when you look at defenses in the past, the `mike' is the guy who is considered the more sturdy, run guy -- Ted Johnson, per se," Beisel said. ``The `will' plays on the weak side -- he runs around and is a little less covered up. From that standpoint, there are differences in the run game. Overall, there are a ton of technical differences."

Fresh start
Newly acquired defensive lineman Johnathan Sullivan says he's ``blocked out everything from the past" and is ready to ``start all over."

Coach Bill Belichick likes his line of thinking. He wants Sullivan to forget about his last three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, which were considered by many to be a disappointment.

``A lot of things that are done in some schemes aren't done in others, and this is a good case where there is a contrast," Belichick said. ``He used the words starting over. I'm sure there's some application to that."

Sullivan has spent all of his time in the league on the inside, but Belichick believes he could line up at end in some 3-4 sets. With Jarvis Green out with an injury, Sullivan was alongside Vince Wilfork, with Ty Warren and Richard Seymour on the ends in some 4-3 alignments.

Sullivan, who is listed at 6 feet 3 inches, 315 pounds, but appears to be well over that weight, was criticized for poor conditioning in New Orleans.

Asked how he feels about Sullivan's conditioning and weight, Belichick said, ``I think it's June. I doubt that any player on the field is in top condition at this point."

Sullivan noted that one of his top concerns is learning the team's terminology. He added that he's never played in a 3-4, although Belichick feels ``he can do a lot of things that we would ask our defensive linemen to do."

For one year at the University of Georgia, Sullivan was teammates with Seymour.

``We were pretty close," Sullivan said. ``That one year we were around each other all the time."

While Sullivan was happy to reflect on those Georgia days, he wasn't interested in speaking about his three years with the Saints, the team that selected him sixth overall in 2003.

``I'm not thinking about New Orleans right now," he said. ``My mind-set is just New England."

No sign of Branch
Receiver Deion Branch was again not at either of the workouts and will not attend today's wrap-up . . . Cornerback Hank Poteat, not on the field the first day of the camp, practiced yesterday . . . Tight end Daniel Graham, safety Rodney Harrison, and offensive linemen Dan Koppen, Brandon Gorin, and Nick Kaczur were among those who did not practice . . . University of Virginia coach Al Groh was on hand for the second straight day, and addressed the team following the afternoon workout. University of Florida coach Urban Meyer watched the workout, as well.

REISS'S PIECES Check out Mike Reiss's Patriots blog (boston.com/patriots/reiss_pieces) today for live updates from Patriots minicamp.

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